Friday, December 22, 2017

Martinis, steaks and cold-blooded belles

So with the UN slapping America in the face, Republicans finally wising up to the Kenyan usurper's Mideast perfidy and Massster's beautiful tax cuts held hostage by those pesky budget rules, what do you figure should have been the world's fourth most important story on Thursday afternoon?

Aw, you peeked. Having done so, though, you might have wondered how the elements of this story fell into place so naturally, so let's have a look:

She’ll drink to that!

The Latvian woman who watched her fiancé drown in the Hudson River walked out of prison Thursday — and celebrated with a martini and steak lunch.

There's no "police said" or "according to eyewitnesses" or "Fox News can reveal" (though there is that delicate accent on "fiancé," in case you've forgiven the French for anything in the past few decades). But there is an outline of the structure under which we're supposed to understand stuff. "Walked out of prison Thursday" is an easy claim to verify. "Martini and steak lunch" is close, but .. hang on a little and we'll get back to the martinis. "Celebrated" is actually a bit different from what you see in sports photo captions, where at least people are usually jumping up and down or something. As for who's drinking to what -- well, you can't call it a lie, because there's nothing for it to be true or false about. It's a framing device. It doesn't tell you what to think, but it tells you how to think about the things you're poised to learn.

Watching one's fiance drown, of course, is substantially different from drowning one's fiance; both have the makings of a good country song, but to make sense of the second paragraph, you need to know in advance that this isn't your ordinary Latvian woman. She's the one ... oh, come on, you read about it a couple years ago, it's on the tip of your tongue, she's the one in that story! So now you're ready to look at how tabloids make news. Indeed, let's just go ahead and shift over to the New York Post, the Murdoch stablemate from which Fox appropriated this story:
The part that Fox added to the hed -- the steak dinner -- seems to be the better attested,* but what the heck. How many martinis, and how do we know?

Angelika Graswald, 37, was sprung from Bedford Hills Correctional Facility in Westchester, a month after she was sentenced for criminally negligent homicide in the July 2015 death of her beau.

Graswald — who admitted to watching her lover drown after pulling the drain plug from his kayak – checked her reflection in her lawyer’s white Infinity** before standing before reporters in front of the jail.

Now we're getting into some serious tabloidism. In the space of three grafs, the decedent is "her fiance," "her beau" and "her lover": an elongated yellow fruit salad of grisly romantic death. And with a few minor quibbles -- did she check her reflection in the white Infiniti, or in one of its mirrors? -- we can categorize this part as eyewitness-true.

“Angelika is so grateful to be here today,” her lawyer, Richard Portale said. “She is grateful for this day. She’s excited to be able to reconnect with her family in a meaningful way. She plans to FaceTime her family as soon as we can.”

 Ah, journalism. Leave "before standing before," ignore the rule about commas and appositives, but don't dare put the attribution in front of the subject!

Graswald was accompanied by two women, one holding a camera, who stepped out of Portale’s car to film the reporters as they recorded the statement.

Portale made it clear his client wouldn’t be taking any questions.

The foursome then sped off to a white-tablecloth Mount Kisco eatery where Graswald was looking forward to eating some pink meat.

Are we reading her mind again, or ...?

“She’s going to take a deep breath of fresh air and then enjoy a nice steak,” Portale told The Post Wednesday, repeating this to reporters outside the prison today.

As Portale rushed off, a man who said he was one of Graswald’s lawyers drove a Range Rover that attempted to act as a blocker car — weaving erratically between lanes at approximately 60 mph to deter any reporters trying to follow the cold-blooded belle.

At one point, the Rover cut off a school bus and stopped at a green light so Portale could get away.

It's the sense of detail that sets real reporters apart from posers.

Once at the Lexington Square Café, a surf ‘n’ turf eatery, Graswald, both of her lawyers and the two women sat in a private room on the second floor, were served four martinis to start.

Now it's time to do some math. Five people, four martinis -- so did the dead-eyed dame sip more than of them, just one, a fraction of one or none at all? 

Graswald then devoured a $38 steak cooked medium during the two-hour lunch.

So we know the internal temperature of the steak she ate, but not how many martinis she sipped. Does that mean we're ... making things up? Well, to borrow one of the Murdoch empire's favorite quotes: What difference, at this point, does it make? That's not what stories like this let us do. We have martinis and steaks, so bring on the sipping and devouring: the "action verbs" of your journalism textbooks. And there are plenty of those "fished a Camel from his shirt pocket" details to remind you that we did the footwork.

The “Kayak Killer” wouldn’t say whether she’d enjoyed the cut as she left the eatery but Portale said, “She sure did.”

What kind of tabloid editor let that one go by -- you know how much the steak cost, but not what cut it was? But if you're wondering, yes: the final score is "eatery" 3, "restaurant" 0.

Graswald was originally charged with second-degree murder for the drowning death her 46-year-old fiance.

... She dogged the rap by striking a deal for the lesser plea and got out on time served after being in jail since her 2015 arrest.

And this, in the end, is why we have copy editors: so impressionable children don't grow up expecting Sam to say "You killed Miles and you're not going to dog that rap."

* Bear in mind that this is the network that, earlier in the day, declared that the Black Dahlia case was the gruesomest-ever in modern American history.
** In the old days, someone called a "copy editor" would probably have caught this.

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